Riley appoints Tyson to head gambling task force
Riley appointed Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson Jr., to succeed David Barber, who resigned the position after winning $2,300 at a legal Indian casino in Mississippi.
Tyson said he planned to get to work immediately.
"The Task Force on Illegal Gambling is about the rule of law," Tyson said. " ... The law could not be clearer. Slot machines are illegal and calling it electronic bingo does not change that."
The law, he said, allows traditional bingo in those counties with constitutional amendments.
In 2006, Tyson tried to unseat Attorney General Troy King, who Riley appointed to that position.
When asked about King, Tyson said they work together and said as Riley nodded that "Frankly his loose interpretation of the law is what got this whole thing started."
In an e-mail to the Montgomery Advertiser, King responded "It is not surprising, but it is disappointing, to see rhetoric, politics, and agendas, yet again get in the way of the law.
"If Mr. Tyson, as he claims, is having a hard time understanding my interpretation of the law, before he saddles up with heavily armed state troopers, putting them and the public at risk, he should spend some time reading the 17 different constitutional amendments that legalize bingo in 16 counties in Alabama. That is the law as approved by the voters of this state, and that is not difficult to understand."
Riley said he believes Tyson is ideally suited for the job and has a history of prosecuting people regardless of income, influence or political connections.
He said Tyson has integrity, tenacity and courage, and is committed to enforcing the law.
"I know John Tyson. ... If it's illegal, it's illegal for everyone," Riley said.
The governor said some people described Tyson as a bulldog.
"That's what we need," he said.
When asked if he was concerned about VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor saying he had a private investigator follow Barber, Tyson said McGregor needs to be concerned about whether he is intimidating law enforcement from doing their job.
Tyson said it appears to "border on obstruction and we're going to look into it immediately."
McGregor said that he does not intimidate anybody.
"I don't know about Tyson. ... I know I don’t operate that way," he said. "I can have people monitored and I will have people monitored if I see fit to do so.
"I hope Tyson does a good job. As far as I know, John Tyson is an honorable man and a good DA."
McGregor said the man he had monitored, Barber, "turned out he really needed to be monitored." He said Barber was telling people he opposed gambling while he was gambling in Philadelphia, Miss.
Tyson said he and his wife accumulated about $20 and gambled it away in about 15 minutes in Mississippi about 20 years ago. He said that is their only gambling experience.
Riley said state and federal courts have ruled that the gaming machines are illegal in Alabama, which is why he said some lawmakers are trying to "redefine the law."
"The only way they can make what they're doing legal is by changing the law," he said.
Some lawmakers and casino operators disagree with Riley's interpretation of the law. The Alabama Supreme Court better defined bingo in a recent ruling that Riley considered a major victory.
McGregor said the constitutional amendment passed in Macon County allows electronic bingo.
"You can't get any more legal than that," he said.
McGregor is among those who have alleged ties between Riley and those who operate the Choctaw casinos in Mississippi. Those critics point to information in a report of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. They accuse Riley of trying to reduce competition in Alabama, a claim Riley and his supporters vehemently deny.
McGregor said that if Tyson has an interest in gambling in Alabama, he should ask some hard questions of Riley and Barber.
Tyson, who is running for reelection as district attorney, said he will serve in both roles and is not receiving any more compensation. He has served as district attorney for 16 years. Tyson, 57, said the task force helped him with a raid in Mobile County.
Tyson said he has had people approach him on a handful of different occasions about opening operations in Mobile County where developers would spend as much as $350 million, but he informed them the activity is illegal. He said it is unfair to tell people they can’t start an establishment in Mobile County while they are opening up elsewhere.
-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen